Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chairman of the U.S. episcopal conference's Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called Wednesday on Congress to keep their priorities straight.
"I urge you to make the lives and dignity of poor families and vulnerable workers central priorities as Congress adopts an economic recovery package," he wrote to Senators and Representatives.
The prelate noted how low-income families and persons are those experiencing the hardest hit from the recession and with the "least capacity to cope in this time of economic crisis."
And, the prelate contended that low-income people "are also likely to use these new resources quickly to purchase the essentials of life and to help move our economy forward. Economic policies that assist and protect 'the least among us' are the right thing to do morally. I believe they are also very effective economically."
On the other hand, Bishop Murphy emphasized, an economic-stimulus package is no place to "advance ideological or partisan agendas."
He decried "measures to expand contraception coverage or prescribe rules for immigrant employment" as "particularly inappropriate in legislation to promote economic recovery."
The bishop stated, "We strongly oppose the specific sections that target efforts to expand coverage for family planning -- and only family planning -- for low-income and temporarily unemployed women. They neglect women's real needs and serve no legitimate purpose for an economic stimulus package."
At the urging of President Barack Obama, this measure was in fact dropped from the stimulus bill, as it promised to create a roadblock for bipartisan approval of the package, something already proving elusive.
The bishop also said, "We also strongly oppose a provision in the bill that would require the use of the E-verify employer verification system by every organization receiving funding from the stimulus package. […] We urge you to remove this provision from the bill and defer its consideration to a more appropriate vehicle, such as legislation that reforms the nation's immigration laws."
Good to be done
On the other hand, Bishop Murphy voiced his support for a whole list of things that could stimulate the economy, including "the refundable child tax credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit"; "more resources for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- food stamps, and expanding eligibility for unemployed workers and legal immigrants"; "efforts to protect low-income families from losing Medicaid and social service assistance"; "increased funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help poor families cope with costly heating oil and gas bills," etc.
The bishop urged Congress to act "quickly and wisely."
"This is no time to seek economic or partisan advantage," he declared. "This is a time to pursue the common good, beginning with help for the families and communities most hurt by this crisis."
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On the Net:
Full text of letter: http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2009/09-026.shtml